Standard Article

Paramagnetic Organometallic Complexes

  1. Daniel B. Leznoff,
  2. Garry Mund

Published Online: 15 MAR 2006

DOI: 10.1002/0470862106.ia180

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry

How to Cite

Leznoff, D. B. and Mund, G. 2006. Paramagnetic Organometallic Complexes. Encyclopedia of Inorganic Chemistry. .

Author Information

  1. Simon Fraser University, Burnaby, BC, Canada

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 15 MAR 2006


The synthesis, characterization, and reactivity of paramagnetic (or open-shell) organometallic species are described. Many stable complexes featuring transition metals, lanthanides, and actinides have been reported. These systems, which are exceptions to the 18-electron rule (or 16-electron rule), are increasingly being used in the catalytic realm, and also have different reactivity patterns compared to their diamagnetic counterparts due to the presence of the unpaired electrons. The formation and subsequent stability of paramagnetic organometallic complexes in violation of the 18-electron rule can be explained via molecular orbital theory in terms of (1) the use of π-donor ligands (as opposed to the ubiquitous π-acceptor ligands usually found in organometallic chemistry); (2) kinetic stabilization with sterically demanding ligands; (3) partially filled molecular orbitals being nonbonding or slightly antibonding/bonding. Although metallocene-based complexes are probably the most well studied of all paramagnetic organometallic complexes, homoleptic σ-alkyl complexes and other non-Cp systems have also been explored. Such non-Cp ancillary ligands include amido-, alkoxo-, and thiolato-ligands, β-diketiminate ligands, and tris(pyrazolylborate) ligands. f-electron organometallic systems also utilize a similar range of ligands, but due to their larger size, they can accommodate more sterically congested coordination spheres; for example, Cp*3M complexes can be prepared, and they show unusual reactivity pathways.

Open-shell organometallic molecules are known to span a range of electron counts from 8–20. Nineteen-electron organometallic complexes are of particular interest with respect to the location of the extra electron residing primarily on the metal or on the ligand (in this case, the complex is referred to as an 18 + δ system).

The discussion of short-lived paramagnetic organometallic systems revolves around 17- and 19-electron radicals, and their use in catalytic processes and as ‘super reducing agents.’ Many reactivity pathways for such organometallic radicals (or ‘metalloradicals’) have been identified.

Characterization tools for paramagnetic organometallic complexes, such as NMR and ESR spectroscopy, DFT calculations, and magnetic measurements are presented. Variable temperature NMR studies and 2H NMR can be of significant use in interpreting paramagnetic NMR spectra. Solid-state NMR spectroscopy of paramagnetic organometallic systems is still in its infancy. The applications of paramagnetic organometallic complexes span many areas including catalysis (e.g. olefin polymerization), synthetic organic chemistry, and the development of molecule-based magnetic materials.


  • paramagnetic;
  • organometallic;
  • radical;
  • metallocene;
  • catalysis;
  • magnetism;
  • metal–metal bond;
  • open-shell;
  • spin state;
  • ESR;
  • electron transfer